TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The family and supporters of a black man from Topeka killed last year by police are speaking out against the city, the department and what they called unjustified violence by law enforcement toward black men as they discuss a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and the officers.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges that the two white officers, Michael Cruse and Justin Mackey, lacked legal justification when they fatally shot Dominique White, 30, after a struggle in September near a park in Topeka. The officers were responding to a report of gunfire and confronted White, who was armed and recently out of prison.
Police body camera footage shows White fleeing from the officers before he was shot. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay ruled in December that the shooting was justified, saying White moved his hand over a pocket that contained a gun as he fled. An internal police investigation found that Cruse and Mackey followed department policies during the confrontation.
Family attorney Andrew Stroth said White never posed a threat. He said White’s death is due to an embedded culture of racism within police departments across the country.
Theresa Wynne, White’s mother, said there is no excusing her son’s death.
“He didn’t deserve this … and his sons didn’t deserve to spend their lives without a father,” Wynne said.
Topeka city spokeswoman Molly Hadfield said Wednesday she couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
White’s death certificate said he died primarily from gunshots in the back. The lawsuit said each officer fired four times and three of the shots hit White in the back.
The suit, which seeks more than $75,000 in damages, alleges the officers violated White’s constitutional rights against unreasonable seizure and to due process. It also accuses the city of providing inadequate training.
Sarah C. Oglesby-Dunegan, minister with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, said police acted as judge, jury and executioner in White’s case.
“Dominique White is just one among thousands who prove that zip code and skin color define the fault lines in our communities,” she said, adding that the problem exists in communities nationwide.